Dempster keeps going strong for Cubs

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Dempster keeps going strong for Cubs

Friday, Sept. 17, 2010
10:24 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MIAMI If Carlos Zambrano does retire once his contract expires and assuming the team does not ask him to waive his no-trade clause he will have spent almost half his life in the Cubs organization.

Signed at the age of 16, Zambrano will be only 31 at the end of the 2012 season and his 91.5 million deal. Clearly Zambrano is unique just as his agent Barry Praver apparently tells him.

Mike Quade hadnt heard about Zambranos retirement thoughts late Wednesday night, which he also expressed 15 months earlier. The manager turned to a media-relations staffer Friday afternoon for clarification: Just Z being Z?

Really? Maybe hell take me with him, Quade said. Jesus, lets both go to Venezuela and spend the rest of our lives in Caracas.

Its difficult to see where the Cubs will be in two years.

Ryan Dempster should be nearing the end of his four-year, 52 million contract. And there will be curiosity about Zambranos vesting 19.25 million player option for 2013, which kicks in if: he finishes first or second in the 2011 Cy Young vote; or if he places in the top four of the 2012 Cy Young vote and is healthy when that seasons complete.

If Dempster and Zambrano remain healthy and motivated and if some of the young pitchers hyped by the front office develop quick enough maybe the rebuilding process doesnt have to be that long.

Dempster spent parts of seven seasons in the Florida Marlins organization, but he will be remembered for his time with the Cubs. After Fridays 2-0 victory at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, he has now reached 30-plus starts and at least 200 innings for the third consecutive season.

Its a goal of mine every year, Dempster said of the 200-inning mark. It says that youre staying healthy and youre giving your team a chance to win.

But Im not done yet. I still got a few more starts to go. I want to go out there and finish strong and not settle on that number and keep going.

The Cubs (66-81) are hoping for a carryover effect into 2011 with their young players like Starlin Castro, who committed his 26th error on Friday but later made a spectacular play to end the game. After Carlos Marmol walked two Marlins, the rookie shortstop laid out near the left-field line for a diving catch that secured the win.

I just wanted to finish up on a good note, Castro said through an interpreter.

Quade is aware of individual milestones, and will try to make sure that Castro (.309 average) gets enough plate appearances to appear on the National League leader board. Its unlikely Dempster (14-10, 3.50) will be able to tie his career high of 17 wins. With the Cubs looking at a possible six-man rotation, he will probably receive two more starts.

He can sit back and feel like he did one heck of a job this year, Quade said. Hes not the kind of guy that is going to say something. Thats the other thing I love about him.

As the Cubs lean on more and more pitchers who probably thought theyd spend more time at Triple-A Iowa this season, they will be counting on Dempster to set the tone for the entire staff. Theyd love 400 more innings out of his right arm.

Dempster will be 35 at the end of his 14 million player option for 2012. He has family considerations, and seems like he would be a natural fit for television, but isnt thinking about the end of his career.

Until they tell me to take my uniform off, Dempster said, Ill play as long as I can play. I enjoy doing it, so (thats) the furthest thing from my mind.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

MESA, Ariz. — As Major League Baseball officials responded to an unbelievably timed rain delay, Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti huddled in a suite beneath Progressive Field and recognized what he saw in Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer after nine innings in a World Series Game 7.

"(We're) trying to figure out: Hey, what's going to happen here? How long are we going to have to wait? Are we going to have to pick up this game tomorrow?" Antonetti said. "I remember the look on both Jed and Theo's faces — it was the same as mine — just like exhaustion and fatigue and angst."

Soon enough, Epstein would be standing in the visiting dugout, his black suit completely drenched, winging it through a CSN Chicago postgame show interview: "Jed's in charge. I'm going on a bender."

However Cleveland fans processed the 10th inning — at least LeBron James had already delivered the city's first major sports title since 1964 — the Indians regrouped and reloaded as one of the favorites to win the 2017 World Series.

Danny Salazar — who hadn't built himself back up to full strength by the Fall Classic — threw two scoreless innings during Sunday afternoon's 1-1 tie in front of a sellout crowd at Sloan Park in Mesa. The Indians also survived and advanced into early November without frontline starter Carlos Carrasco (broken right pinkie finger) throwing a single playoff pitch or All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley (right shoulder complications) playing beyond May.

But the Indians didn't just sit back in their comfort zone this winter and simply hope for good medical reports and assume their young core players would improve. Sensing an opportunity, Cleveland swooped in around Christmastime and made a three-year, $60 million commitment to Edwin Encarnacion, who put up 42 homers and 127 RBIs last season for the Blue Jays, weakening the team that lost the American League Championship Series.

"It certainly has a positive impact on the momentum that we established and revenue heading into the following season," Antonetti said. "But I still think beyond that, it's been a big leap of faith by our ownership to really step out beyond what may make sense, just looking at where our projections might be.

"It's really a belief in our fan base that they'll continue to support our team and build on the momentum from last year."

Cleveland already paid the price for Andrew Miller — the Yankees wanted Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez from the Cubs as a starting point last summer — and now control the game-changing reliever for two more pennant races. The Indians also invested $6.5 million in Boone Logan — a reliever the Cubs had monitored closely — when the lefty specialist lingered on the open market until early February.

Between the future Hall of Fame manager (Terry Francona), a Cy Young Award winner (Corey Kluber), the young All-Star shortstop (Francisco Lindor) and the dude from Glenbrook North (Jason Kipnis), Cleveland has way too much talent to be consumed with what could have been in Game 7.

"Hopefully, our guys learned from all of their experiences," Antonetti said. "They went through a lot last year. But I think at the same time, we have an appreciation and realize how hard it is to win, and how hard it was to get to the postseason.

"Continuing that mindset — and remembering what helped us get there — will benefit our guys the most. They'll reflect back and realize we didn't just show up and end up in the postseason and in the World Series. We started that work on Day 1 of the offseason and Day 1 in spring training."

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

MESA, Ariz. – Imagine the vibe here if the Cubs had lost Game 7, what Miguel Montero might have said to the media and how anxious the fan base would be now.

Instead of the World Series trophy on display, the sellout crowds at Sloan Park could see flashbacks to the biggest collapse in franchise history. Joe Maddon’s press briefings, regularly scheduled stunts and interactions with the players wouldn’t be quite so carefree. A rotation already stressed from back-to-back playoff runs would only have a one-year window with Jake Arrieta and John Lackey positioned to become free agents. 

“I do think about that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s just not a thought I try to keep in my head for very long, because, yeah, it is a scary thought.

“Obviously, we would be super-hungry. But there’s a daunting nature when you go that deep in the playoffs. Going through six weeks of spring training, going through a six-month regular season, going through a month of the postseason and getting back to that point is unbelievably difficult.

“It is daunting, sometimes, when you lose really late in the season, thinking about the length of time it takes you to get back to that. I’m sure that’s what Cleveland’s dealing with right now.”

The Indians crossed off Game 2 on their Cactus League schedule with Sunday afternoon’s 1-1 tie in front of 15,388 in Mesa, the beginning of the long journey they hope will finally end the 69-year drought.

Hoyer remembered looking around Progressive Field during the World Series and noticing the banners, thinking about the lineups built around Kenny Lofton’s speed, the explosive power from Albert Belle, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez and two-way players like Omar Vizquel and Sandy Alomar Jr.

“We were talking about it on the field before Game 7,” Hoyer said. “There’s no doubt we’re built – especially from a position-playing standpoint – to have the same players for a long time. Hopefully, we can have a lot of really great Octobers going forward. But you can never take that for granted. You have no idea what the future holds.

“You know when you’re playing in Game 7 how important it is to win in that moment, because you never know if you’re going to get back there. There are some good teams that have gotten bounced in the playoffs early or never quite got over that hump. There are some great teams that have never accomplished that.”

[RELATED: Joe Maddon misses his 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' chance]

In theory, this is just the beginning of a long runway for Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr. But there is an element of luck involved and maybe the matchups won’t be quite as favorable in 2017 or 2019 or 2021. Injuries happen, priorities change, players underperform and the next impact homegrown pitcher in Chicago will be the first for the Theo Epstein administration.  

“You look at those mid-90s Indians teams,” Hoyer said. “Those teams were as loaded as you’re going to get from an offensive standpoint and all that young talent. They got really close in ’95. They got really close in ’97. They were never able to win that World Series.

“Look at that position-playing group – it’s incredible – and they never won a World Series. So being a really good team and having really good regular seasons – and actually winning a World Series – those are very different things. And there’s no guarantee that because you’re a good team you’re going to win the World Series.”    

Epstein fired manager Grady Little after the 2003 Red Sox lost a brutal American League Championship Series Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. That search process led to Terry Francona, the future Hall of Fame manager who led the Red Sox to two championship parades and guided the Indians to the 10th inning of a World Series Game 7. 

Hoyer, the former Boston staffer, spoke briefly with Francona last month at the New York Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner. Hoyer showed up at the New York Hilton to support Bryant, the National League MVP, while Francona collected the AL Manager of the Year award.

“Honestly, there’s some awkwardness there,” Hoyer said. “We won and they lost. And no one wants to hear a lot about it. We chatted about the game for five minutes or so, mostly talking about what a great game it was.

“Forget about the victor, that was just an incredible baseball game. We’ll always be part of history. People will always mention that game among the top five or 10 games of all-time.

“But I don’t think they want that game brought up over and over. Nor would I in the same situation. I don’t love talking about Game 7 when Aaron Boone hit the home run in ’03. It’s not my favorite topic. I think it’s probably that times a hundred when it comes to Game 7 last year for the Indians.”